Des­ti­na­tion Fo­cus

Golf Vacations (Malaysia) - - Contents - WORDS & PHO­TOG­RA­PHY By DAVID J. WHYTE

A dif­fer­ent di­men­sion to golf and liv­ing in the north­east part of Scot­land by a writer who grew up there.

David J Whyte takes us on a tour of his ‘home turf ’ ahead of this year’s

Bri­tish Open at Carnoustie Cham­pi­onship on Scot­land’s East Coast

An an­cient linksland was formed where the River Tay meets the North Sea and there, three 18-hole cour­ses pro­vide the back­drop to our story here. There could be more but the Bri­tish Army com­man­deered the land in the late 1800s for gun­nery prac­tice. It is also a ‘Site of Spe­cial Sci­en­tific In­ter­est’ with many rare birds pass­ing by - although I don’t fancy their chances with all those ri­fles go­ing off.

Ac­cord­ing to records, golf at Carnoustie goes back at least to the early 16th cen­tury. In 1842, a for­mal 10-hole course was es­tab­lished by Allan Robert­son and the then yet young orig­i­nal Tom Mor­ris. It was the rail­way that brought golfers from fur­ther afield ea­ger to tackle these re­doubtable links. In 1867, the course was again re­mas­tered by Mor­ris, by then re­ferred to as ‘Old Tom’ and son, young Tommy went on to win a ma­jor event on Carnoustie’s links that same year.

In my youth, Carnoustie was no big deal. My fa­ther and un­cles would oc­ca­sion­ally make a pil­grim­age from nearby Dundee to play the ‘big course’ as they re­ferred to its Cham­pi­onship lay­out. In those days, it wasn’t in good shape, a mu­nic­i­pal fa­cil­ity run by An­gus County Coun­cil who, at the time, clearly didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate what they had. It was still on the Open rota but by the mid 1970s, it fell off again due to a lack of ac­com­mo­da­tion in the area and rather in­dif­fer­ent course con­di­tions.

Then in the 1990s, two men came to Carnoustie’s res­cue; Jock Calder who en­cour­aged nearly ev­ery­one he met to get The Open back and a new greens su­per­in­ten­dent, John Philp. I was for­tu­nate enough to know both of them, es­pe­cially John who was al­ways happy to take me out on the cour­ses as he plied his prodi­gious green­keep­ing skills and ba­si­cally res­cued Carnoustie from obliv­ion.

“John, can we hurry up, please?” I had to ask him one evening when I was re­search­ing the copy for the 1999 Open Cham­pi­onship pro­gramme. We’d been tour­ing the course for hours dis­cussing ev­ery hole, and it seemed, each blade of grass. “It’s my an­niver­sary,” I told him. “I re­ally need to get home tonight!”

Philp was uber-pas­sion­ate and did for Carnoustie’s Cham­pi­onship course what Wal­ter Woods just a few years be­fore had done to the cour­ses in St An­drews. These two men, green­keep­ers of the old school and close col­leagues, (Philp had worked with Woods in St An­drews), had come along when Scot­land’s two premier mu­nic­i­pal fa­cil­i­ties badly needed to come into the 20th cen­tury, let alone the 21st. To­gether, they did just that.

In my youth, I played my first golf in Carnoustie, mainly on the Bud­don Course. It costed £5 a round at the time. Philp did much for the Burn­side and the Bud­don cour­ses also, ap­ply­ing the same stan­dards of green­keep­ing as he did on the ‘Big Course’ and bring­ing them to an im­pec­ca­ble stan­dard of con­di­tion and rout­ing.

The Burn­side was longer and con­sid­ered the bet­ter of the two but just be­fore he re­tired, Philp over­saw the ad­di­tion of two new holes and re-rout­ing on The Bud­don, mak­ing it now per­haps the bet­ter test.

“So, what’s it like to play ‘Car-nasty’ as it some­times gets dubbed? Like any Scot­tish links, if the wind’s up and rain is whip­ping against your cheeks, it can be a bug­ger. In 1999, it re­duced the likes of Tiger and Ser­gio to near tears (it ac­tu­ally did in Ser­gio’s case af­ter an eye-wa­ter­ing first round of 89). Tiger still

says it’s the tough­est course on the cir­cuit.”

So, what’s it like to play ‘Car-nasty’ as it some­times gets dubbed? Like any Scot­tish links, if the wind’s up and rain is whip­ping against your cheeks, it can be a bug­ger. In 1999, it re­duced the likes of Tiger and Ser­gio to near tears (it ac­tu­ally did in Ser­gio’s case af­ter an eye-wa­ter­ing first round of 89). Tiger still says it’s the tough­est course on the cir­cuit.

Even on a rea­son­able day from the vis­i­tor tees, Carnoustie’s Cham­pi­onship is a proper ‘man’s’ course. But if you can pick your days and con­di­tions, you can steer it round with­out that much bother.

You see, for us av­er­age hand­i­cap­pers, there is ac­tu­ally room out there. I’ve en­joyed some of my best rounds here, scrap­ing home in the low 80s and step­ping off the 18th with a deeply sat­is­fied smile.

Come this July, ev­ery­one will be watch­ing the Open to see just what ‘Car-nasty’ will throw at the Tour elite. But there re­ally is a lot more to Carnoustie Coun­try than just one great golf course.

Dundee’s my home base and if you’re plan­ning a

visit to Carnoustie or in­deed St An­drews, I rec­om­mend mak­ing this your base also. This for­mer in­dus­trial city is cur­rently en­joy­ing a ma­jor re­nais­sance with a £1 bil­lion in­vest­ment mainly into its amaz­ing wa­ter­front.

If you ap­proach Dundee from the south, St An­drews and the King­dom of Fife, it re­ally does have a fairy­tale frontage, es­pe­cially at night. And now they have aug­mented it with a star at­trac­tion, the V&A Mu­seum of De­sign, the first ded­i­cated de­sign mu­seum in Scot­land, hope­fully to open in time for the Open.

The city it­self has a charm and small-town am­bi­ence that makes it easy to love. It is friend­lier than Aberdeen and Ed­in­burgh and a cinch to stroll around as ev­ery­thing is close to its cen­tre.

With a host of great ho­tels, restau­rants, pleas­ant pubs and evening en­ter­tain­ment, it does present an ideal base for golfers. St An­drews is only 10 miles south, Carnoustie the same in the op­po­site direc­tion and Gle­nea­gles just a bit fur­ther west.

Be­sides those, there is a host of su­perb, lesser-known cour­ses in be­tween. The pock­ets of sandy links that ex­ist all the way up Scot­land’s East Coast have lent them­selves well to the cre­ation of a num­ber of great sea­side tracks. I play much of my win­ter golf at Moni­fi­eth and both its Medal and Ash­ludie cour­ses are pure plea­sure, with the Ash­ludie more as a prac­tice round as it is shorter.

Pan­mure Golf Club next door is more chal­leng­ing. Ben Hogan pre­pared him­self at Pan­mure prior to his 1953 Open win at Carnoustie and the 6th was a hole he rel­ished - an in­ter­est­ing tight dog­leg play­ing up to an el­e­vated green, well-pro­tected by Scot­land’s in­fa­mous gorse bushes.

Fur­ther north still is Mon­trose

Golf Links, the 5th old­est golf course in the world. At one point, it of­fered 25 con­tin­u­ous holes of golf, the largest num­ber of any course un­til Old Tom set the 18-hole stan­dard at St An­drews’s Old. I love to play this gnarly old links, an au­then­tic ex­am­ple of how the game might have been all those cen­turies ago.

Turn­ing in­land, it is here you should ven­ture for some heath­land golf ex­pe­ri­ences. Scot­tish heath­land golf is al­most as unique as its links with firm turf that is a joy to play off. Edzell Golf Club is a good ex­am­ple fairly close to Carnoustie but carry on to­wards Blair­gowrie and you will find both Blair­gowrie Golf Club’s Rose­mount and Lans­down cour­ses prob­a­bly the finest ex­am­ples of Scot­tish heath­land golf in the coun­try.

Gle­nea­gles is just over a half hour’s drive from Dundee of­fer­ing the inim­itable Kings and Queens cour­ses. I’m men­tion­ing only the big cour­ses here yet nearly ev­ery vil­lage along the way has a good golf fa­cil­ity and you would be charmed with them all. Kir­riemuir, Forfar, Alyth, Ar­broath, Brechin, Letham Grange; they all of­fer su­perb golf cour­ses and I’d highly rec­om­mend a round on any of them.

While Dundee is the re­gion’s cul­tural cen­tre, there are many great things to be ex­plored in Carnoustie Coun­try. Firstly, An­gus is con­sid­ered the birth­place of Scot­land.

The fear­somely painted Pic­tish tribes were re­spon­si­ble for block­ing the Ro­mans, and then English ad­vances at the bat­tle of of Dun Nech­tain near Forfar in AD 685.

Later Ken­neth Ma­calpin, king of Dal­ri­ada, moved east­wards into Pict­land and es­tab­lished a new en­tity that most his­to­ri­ans agree was the be­gin­ning of the Scot­tish na­tion. April 6, 1320 marked the Dec­la­ra­tion of Ar­broath which was signed by 38 Scot­tish Lords and sent to the Pope, urg­ing him to set aside English claims on Scot­land and pro­claim the na­tion as its own coun­try.

Glamis Cas­tle, child­hood home of The Queen Mother and set­ting for Shake­speare’s Mac­beth is prob­a­bly the re­gion’s most pop­u­lar tourist at­trac­tion and it is cer­tainly one of the most beau­ti­ful cas­tles in the coun­try. Nearby, Kir­riemuir has the con­trast­ing no­to­ri­ety of be­ing the birth­place of JM Bar­rie who wrote ‘Peter Pan’, and the some­what less seden­tary Bon Scott of AC/DC fame.

Again from the Pic­tish era, there are many Stand­ing Stones scat­tered through­out the land­scape, with some still seen in potato fields or by the sides of the roads. Don’t get too close how­ever, as you could end up trav­el­ling back in time (for all you Out­lander fans out there). Near the Stand­ing Stones of Aber­lemno is the David­son cot­tage from which the David­son fam­ily em­i­grated to the USA and later met a cer­tain Wil­liam S. Har­ley - the rest is ‘hog’ his­tory. An­other young emi­gre from these parts was David Buick who in­vented the over­head cam en­gine and es­tab­lished the Buick Mo­tor Com­pany.

The mar­ket town of Forfar is fa­mous for Bri­dies, a meat pie with or with­out onions and one of the main sup­pli­ers is Sad­dlers in E. High Street. Sandy Sad­dler was a fa­mous Walker Cup­per rep­re­sent­ing Bri­tain 14 times and Scot­land 22 times be­tween 1959 and 1967. He rep­re­sented Great Bri­tain three times in the Walker Cup and was the non- play­ing cap­tain of the team in 1977. In 1967, he was the only Great Bri­tain player to win two sin­gles in the Walker Cup. He’s pretty good at mak­ing pies too.

The mag­nif­i­cent An­gus Glens are nearly al­ways in sight through­out the county and where as a child, my great un­cle was the lo­cal shep­herd. I re­mem­ber fondly trav­el­ling by bus and spend­ing long week­ends in the cot­tage in the glen that still stands to­day.

“Glamis Cas­tle, child­hood home of The Queen Mother and set­ting for Shake­speare’s Mac­beth is prob­a­bly

the re­gion’s most pop­u­lar tourist at­trac­tion and it is cer­tainly one of the most beau­ti­ful cas­tles in the coun­try. Nearby, Kir­riemuir has the con­trast­ing no­to­ri­ety of be­ing the birth­place of JM Bar­rie who wrote ‘Peter Pan’, and the some­what less seden­tary Bon

Scott of AC/DC fame.”

TOP THREE PIC­TURES - CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: Dundee and the Tay Bridge from the Law (Hill) look­ing to the King­dom of Fife; Carnoustie Bud­don Course; Carnoustie Cham­pi­onship 14th, known also as the Spec­ta­cles due to these two gap­ing bunkers.BOT­TOM PIC­TURES-LEFT TO RIGHT: The Par 3 5th on Carnoustie’s Burn­side Course is sur­rounded by the Barry Burn on three sides. Al­ready holder of The Masters and The U.S. Open Cham­pi­onship; Ben Hogan came to Pan­mure Golf Club to prac­tice ahead of the 1953 Bri­tish Open Cham­pi­onship at next-door Carnoustie. He won it!

For­mor­e­in­for­ma­tio­nand­video­son Scot­land,the­home­of­golf,along­with manyother­great­des­ti­na­tions,visit David’sweb­siteatwww.linksland.com. CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP: Letham Grange Golf Club - 8th; Blair­gowrie Rose­mount - 18th; Forfar Golf Club - 14th; Mon­trose mem­bers in pe­riod cos­tume. Pic­tish Bat­tle ReE­n­act­ment near Brechin; Ar­broath ree­n­act­ment of the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence; Glamis Cas­tle, An­gus.

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